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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2086469
I'm watching a man ahead of me do pushups against his car. And I'm transfixed.
Is he doing this for my benefit? I wondered to myself. Before me, the man was doing pushups against the trunk of his car. It was an unusual scene to behold.

I had pulled up behind the black Mustang and a very well-dressed man was getting out of his car. I looked to the other pumps and saw people were already waiting so I had better just be patient while Mustang bought his gas.

The man looked to be close to me age, thirtyish, but was in much better shape. His white buttoned shirt was tight fitting and tucked in, showing off the defined physique beneath it. It was easy to admire him or even envy him. I looked down at my own gut hiding the seat belt from me and was mildly disgusted.

After he had fiddled with the device and situated his pump handle, he started his pushups. Again, I was taken aback. What was he doing? He’s going to get his shirt dirty before he gets back to the office. He merely looked like the kind of guy who worked in an office. For all I knew, he was a travelling salesman, a drug rep of some kind, or he worked in a car dealership. Those are all jobs where you sell stuff, I silently realized. Hell, I’d buy what he’s selling!

The pump pumped as the solidly built man pumped. I couldn’t see his shoes from by car’s seat but I did wonder if his regimen was putting a crease in the top. I also wondered if his tie was touching the trunk of his car with each repetition or if he had tucked it into his shirt. Was he even wearing a tie? I couldn’t recall. I was so transfixed on the mere act that I didn’t take notice of the probably stripe of color that should’ve been noticed on his white shirt.

Without notice, Mustang turned around and began doing reverse-pushups. He stared down at his arm as it bulged beneath the fabric. His mouth widened with each drop, like he was trying to let as much air out as possible. He switched from looking at one arm to the other with each repetition, his tie folding into his seemingly-flat stomach with each effort.

It’s tucked, I realized, as if it really mattered. I wondered again if his hands were getting dirty and if he was going to get his white shirt or he dark blue slacks stained in some way.

His pump stopped and the metallic sound, louder than I had anticipated, startled me. I inadvertently honked my horn and the man, the possibly-chiseled demigod, was caught unawares: he jolted and slipped back, his face filled first with stark surprise and then pain when his back fell against the edge of his trunk.

My first reaction was to duck. Thankfully, I realized in a heartbeat that it was pointless and foolish: there was nowhere to hide in such an exposed area. I then did what I assumed was the courageous thing and stepped out of my car to see if he was okay.

He wasn’t making any sounds but the man was holding his hand to the middle of his back: a dark handprint was already evident, accompanying the faint dark line that the trunk had presumably made. “Are you alright?” I asked, reaching down to help him up.

“Uh, yeah, yeah. I think… so. Oh. Wow. That was unexpected. You in a hurry or something?”

“No, no. I’m just, ah, sorry. I accidently hit my horn. The pump,” I motioned to the handle protruding from his car. “It surprised me.”

He squinted at me, his eyes denoting confusion “How so?”

I then thought that in telling him I’d been openly gawking at him might make him feel uncomfortable; men don’t always like to be ogled by other men. Nothing else was coming to mind, though. And it’s not like I was doing anything wrong or anything! So I told him.

“Oh. Yeah, I guess that’s my bad. I like to, ow, stay in shape. And I read that you can squeeze in some pushups at the pump.” He then smiled at me, a disarming glance if I ever saw one. “No worries.” He tapped my shoulder, putting a small amount of grime on my shirt, and then he moved past me to dislodge the handle and close his gas tank.

“You, uh… There’s some stuff. On your back.”

“Figures. I’ve got another shirt at the office. In my gym locker.”

“’Course you do.”

He smiled again, waved, and then drove away.

After a few stunned seconds, I returned to my car to pull up. I opened my gas nozzle and put the handle in and slowly found myself behind my car. I looked at the edge of my trunk, at how dirty it was. I should be at a car wash, I thought with disdain.

But I also knew I had to start somewhere if I didn’t want to find myself looking down at my own stomach and feeling uncomfortable. I hesitated but then started the pushups. I felt like everyone at the gas station was watching me, just as I had been watching Michelangelo’s David sprung to life. My face was warm with physical effort and discomfort, but I finished more than I thought possible before the pump clicked.

My hands felt mucked when I began driving away, but I knew it was manageable. I’d wash them at McDonald’s where I was planning to eat lunch. Now if I can just convince myself to choose something besides the Double Quarter Pounder…

Word Count: 940
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